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We Were Wrong: New DELTA Death Wave Possible As Omicron Burns Itself in Summer – Israeli Scientists Warn

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Don’t toss away your unused face masks just yet. In a new scientific report, researchers from Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) believe that COVID-19’s Omicron variants may burn out in the next months, and the Delta variant may re-emerge.

Their findings were recently published in Science of the Total Environment, a peer-reviewed journal.

Alpha was the first new coronavirus to be discovered at the end of 2019, followed by Beta (first discovered in South Africa), Gamma (first discovered in Brazil), Delta (discovered in India), and the more-infectious but milder Omicron, which has evolved into a variety of sub-variants and spread all over the world.

According to Prof. Ariel Kushmaro and Dr. Karin Yaniv, who recently got her PhD in the discipline, whereas the Delta mutation wiped out the variants that came before it, Omicron has not killed Delta.

The lab team built sensitive arrays that can distinguish variants from one other in wastewater, which continues to provide indicators of where the coronavirus is prevalent, even as PCR and rapid testing of humans declines.

Kushmaro received his advanced degrees in molecular microbiology and biotechnology from Tel Aviv University and went on to study as a postdoctoral scholar at Harvard and Hebrew University. He came to BGU 21 years ago and established a lab at the Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and the School of Sustainability and Climate Change.

The lab specializes on wastewater microbiology, marine microbial ecology, and antibiotic activity of various microorganisms, as well as biological treatment of industrial effluent.

From December 2021 to January 2022, his team analyzed Beersheba’s sewage and discovered this alarming interaction between the Omicron and Delta variants.

They also developed a model with Granek that forecasts Omicron will burn out while Delta will wait to pounce on the population once more.

“SARS-CoV-2 continued circulation results in mutations and the emergence of various variants. Until now, whenever a new, dominant, variant appeared, it overpowered its predecessor after a short parallel period,” they write.

“Despite vaccination efforts in Israel, with a large portion of the population being vaccinated between the first to fourth dose of vaccine and despite high infection rates by previous variants, the Omicron variant had now rooted itself in Israel.”

According to the authors, the latest type of concern, Omicron, is spreading rapidly over the world, with record morbidity reports.

“Unlike the Delta variant, previously considered to be the main variant of concern in most countries, including Israel, the dynamics of the Omicron variant showed different characteristics.”

They said that if their forecast comes true, it could lead to the reemergence of a Delta death wave or the emergence of a new dangerous variant.

The Israeli government and the Ministry of Health have removed most restrictions due to the projected considerable decrease in morbidity from all recovered Omicron cases.

“In the meantime, the Delta, which is still circulating in a population with waning immunity and under fewer restrictions, may re-emerge in larger numbers or even produce a new, different variant to generate infections in Israel.”

In any case, the researchers advocated wastewater-based epidemiology as a practical and representative approach for pandemic containment.

“Of course, there are a lot of factors involved, but our model indicates there could be another outbreak of Delta or another coronavirus variant this summer,” warns Kushmaro, who was assisted by Dr. Eden Ozer and Marilou Shagan at BGU and Dr. Yossi Paitan from Ilex Labs. 

Image Credit: Getty

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